February was mercifully short this year; I was thankful it only had 28 days. Winter is a struggle for this Dubai girl, and the last few years March has felt like the sun coming out. Whether or not the sun actually does shine, the rise in temperature, bulbs poking up, and hope of real Spring are invigorating.
But this year, the first third of March meant more snow. More cold when I wanted to be out on long walks. More scraping snow off of the car. More bundling up the girls before heading outside on days deemed warm enough.
The letdown of snow when it seemed Spring was around the corner coincided with the beginning of Lent. All I knew of Lent as a child was that my grandmother gave up chocolate. I still have yet to ever “give anything up” for Lent – because of Jesus’ words to the disciples about not fasting when the Bridegroom is there (Mark 2:18-20), it does seem odd to me to fast in the part of the church calendar that focuses on His earthly ministry, but I also understand its focus and benefits. However, the last few years have sought to focus my thoughts on Jesus’ life and ministry, with special focus during Holy Week. I didn’t have any specific plans going into it this year, but my reaction to snow in March was tempered by remembrance of thousands of years of longing for redemption.
Hope given via God’s covenants was crushed or delayed by human failure. And then at last, in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, a promise of new hearts, a foretold New Covenant that would reach to the root problem. Hope for truly knowing the Lord. Hope for a return to the way things were supposed to be.
Not two more weeks of snow, but four hundred years of silence. Four hundred years of God saying nothing. Four hundred years of waiting in a land barely a shadow of its former glory.
When God finally does start moving again, it isn’t in the expected way. Unexpected babies. A man eating locusts and honey. Another Man claiming to be God and Messiah yet who says He will die, yet He does the miracles associated with the foretold Messiah. A Kingdom coming not with power but growing slowly like a mustard seed.
A man sobbing alone in a garden.
Disciples fleeing in fear.
Close friend’s denial.
A crown of thorns.
A God who joins our suffering and experiences far worse than we ever will.
In our place in redemptive history, we are on the other side of Good Friday. We know what happens. We know the hope of the Resurrection. We know that Jesus conquered death, that Jesus paid the full price for our sin, that Jesus opened the way for full, confident access to God. We know that in Heaven there will be no more tears and all our sufferings here are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. Every sorrow we have here will be overcome.
But here and now, it hurts.
We have hope in the “already” but the tension of the “not yet” is at times painfully dark. We know the end of redemptive history, but we are not yet there.
Neither are we alone.
“The sun may not rise for a few hours yet. But here amid the waiting hours, the sorrowing have a Savior” (Zack Eswine, Spurgeon’s Sorrows).
He intercedes. He knows our suffering. He struggled like we do.
Providentially, I was reading Cameron Cole’s book Therefore I Have Hope during Lent. His three-year-old son unexpectedly passed away. His “worst” happened. Cole is honest about the pain and suffering, the waiting in the darkness. Yet he is also supernaturally aware of the hope of resurrection.
The already, but not yet.
Even while we rejoice in the Resurrection, we suffer here where we are. The resurrection does not negate that. The resurrection does not mean we glibly skip over pain.
But the resurrection of Jesus Christ does mean that we have an unshakable comfort in the midst of our pain. It means complete forgiveness of sins. It means a great High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses. It means that one day this will all be over. It means we have the help of the Holy Spirit. It means the Father loves us with lavish, steadfast love. It means the One from whom we should expect nothing has given us everything, has freely given us what we were made for – to know Him.
To reach resurrection, we first participate with Him in His suffering, the deaths of our sin natures and wasting away of our physical bodies and those of our loved ones. Yet we do this knowing one day comes our resurrection, the fullness of life forever in the presence of God our Father with Christ our Bridegroom, purchased for us by His death and resurrection (Philippians 3:7-11).
And so we press on. Identifying with Him in His death as we suffer here, yet rejoicing this Resurrection Sunday, and every day, because He has guaranteed its end and our resurrection by His own, to the praise of His glorious grace – so much more glorious than the end of snowy weather.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:7-10